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Camping in the Serengeti: the Real Story

“If you need the toilet in the night, look out of your tent and check for eyes first. If the coast is clear take your torch and do it as close to the tents as possible. Do not walk up to the toilets.”

I put my bottle of water down, stared at the tour leader to see if she was joking and vowed not to drink another drop until daylight.

Apparently G Adventures were serious when they said we’d be camping in the Serengeti, but I thought we’d at least have some sort of electric fence, barrier, wires, brick walls; anything, to separate woman from beast. But no, apart from the material of my sleeping bag and the canvas on the tent to protect me I was fair game for any of the thousands of animal species that call the Serengeti home.

Sleepover in the Serengeti
Lion-proof tents (I hoped)

My fellow tour friends decided that seeing as I won the trip from Zanzibar to Nairobi and they’d all paid for it, they’d throw me to the lions if they came a knockin’. I said a little prayer to anyone who was listening that the 2,500 lions in the Serengeti would stay away, just for tonight.

Around 40 of us were camped at the site. It was chucking it down with rain English-summer-style so we were all in bed for around 9pm. I lay there flinching at every sound and just waiting for the inevitable stampede. My doxycycline-infused brain was visualising myself as Simba in the gorge – the wildebeest were on the move and the hyenas were chasing them towards my tent.

Ten minutes went by and I was still wide awake and on high alert. I could hear the girls in the other tents nervously chatting and giggling and tried to allow it to sooth me to sleep, but as soon as I heard a non-human sound my body tensed up.

“Something just brushed past our tent,” my roomie whispered.

Not sure if you’ve ever tried to sleep with a possible lion hearing outside your tent, but it does make nodding off a little more exciting/impossible.

“Did you hear that?” I sat bolt upright.

Camping in the Serengeti
When I closed my eyes, this what I saw, but I’m the wildebeest…

The lions were definitely outside. I could hear them grizzling – like when a baby makes satisfied noises, or a cat purrs for attention. I lay back down and must’ve lost myself in the sounds, the next thing I knew I was being roused for our early morning game drive.

I was alive!

Excited morning chats with my tour leader and group revealed that hyenas had been sniffing around all night and I hadn’t been imaging the lions. One of my fellow campers said she’d stuck her head out the tent at around 2am and seen loads of eyes staring back at her. She recoiled and spent the next two hours about to wet herself until she gave in and tried again. Lucky for her they’d moved on.

To celebrate our Serengeti survival we were rewarded with a dazzle (the lingo for a group) of zebras chilling out under the rising Africa sun less than 50m away.

Camping in the Serengeti
I’ve never woken up to a more beautiful sight (sorry boyf)
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